Review: Creative Live! Cam Optia

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The propaganda

The Live! Cam Optia is Creative’s latest entry to the webcam market. With so many instant messaging services offering webcam functionality and the rising popularity of video sharing sites, webcams are practically an essential piece of kit for any PC owner.

The Optia offers the standard 640 x 480 resolution, 30 FPS video capture, along with 1.3 megapixel still image capture. You can tweak the focus manually with the focus ring surrounding the lens. The body of the camera can also be twisted on its arm mount to change the angle it is pointing at. One thing that’s lacking is a built-in Microphone, but Creative does supply a little mic and earpiece combo as well as a software CD packed with a range of programs.

The good

Creative already has a pretty exhaustive range of webcam products so the obvious question is what the Optia brings to the table. The answer is Plug and Play. Not exactly ground-breaking stuff but it does save you having to waste five minutes installing loads of drivers and software if you just want to get the hell on with some video calling.

The most obvious appeal of the Optia is the aesthetics – it has a really snazzy clear surround on white plastic design that looks very smart and reminds me of an iMac. The blue light that comes on when it is recording also adds a nice touch. The range of movement on the arm is good too – a full 270 degrees. Twisting it all the way towards the base also shuts the camera down, which proved quite a handy feature.

Should you decide to bother with the accompanying CD, you can install various other programs designed for the camera, including the console, which unlocks the range of adjustments, face tracking and video FX tools. The video FX tools are the most fun, and there is quite a range to choose between from psychedelic colours to wavy images, however beware that they can be a bit glitchy.

The bad

Although the accompanying software is fairly extensive and of good quality, it does suffer from a lack of coherence. Installing the full complement of tools will add six different folders to your start menu each with a couple of different functions inside them. While it’s not much of a gripe, it could have been a lot better if Creative had put them all into a coherent whole.

Image quality, on the whole, compares well with other webcams I have tested, but doesn’t really raise the bar. The only annoyance was that the auto-exposure function was a little clunky.

The built-in microphone or lack thereof is a more serious complaint. The packaged mic and earpiece just doesn’t match the aesthetics of the rest of camera. Given that the Optia’s price tag of between £30 and £40 isn’t particularly cheap for a webcam and that rivals from the likes of Logitech do come with fully integrated microphones, it seems like a wasted opportunity.

Geek Sheet

Sensor: VGA Sensor

Lens: Precision Lens (High quality glass lens)

Highest Still Image Resolution: 1.3 Megapixel 1280×960 (software enhanced)

Highest Video Resolution: 640×480@30fps

Focus: Manual focus ring

Interface: High-Speed USB 2.0 (backward compatible with USB 1.1)

Overview

The Creative Live! Cam Optia is a good looking webcam and offers excellent ease of use as well as pretty decent enhanced features via the accompanying software. The lack of integrated microphone is a sore point and doesn’t do the relatively high price tag any favours. Overall though, it is still a smart piece of kit and probably a sound investment if you already have a free standing mic or headset.

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